A cause for concern

It is rather ironical that Jalaj Saxena, whose selection was widely criticised, has grabbed his opportunity with an all-round display.-PTI

The ongoing A series in the West Indies has been a low-scoring one and it is puzzling to see the future stars of Indian cricket falling prey to the spinners.

The technical committee under Sourav Ganguly has recommended some changes for the coming domestic season and while it is too early to comment on them, the intent to bring in some changes to make the game interesting and competitive has to be lauded. While most of the proposed changes are aimed at making it a level playing field for all teams as also for both bowlers and batsmen, the points system has been left untouched.

Of course, an additional point for an outright win has been suggested, but that is in no way going to make the teams hustle and force the issue when an easy option to sit back on the first innings lead is available. There has been a deliberate attempt to give bowlers some encouragement in the shorter formats of the game in terms of not enforcing the latest ICC rule of four fielders outside the inner circle but however, it will not be possible to disprove the theory that cricket is a batsman's game.

Talking of batsmen, the ongoing A series in the West Indies has been a low-scoring one and it is puzzling to see the future stars of Indian cricket falling prey to the spinners. It does suggest three things — one is that the pitches are under-prepared; two is that the spinners of the West Indies A side are too good and the third is that the India A batsmen have batted very ordinarily. The result of the series notwithstanding, it is a cause for concern when the batsmen fail to put up scores given the fact that most of the leading batsmen have played for the country in Tests and one-dayers.

Rajput, the coach of the team, had mentioned that the players are not applying themselves despite having the required skills and this is suggestive in that the batsmen have found it difficult to shift gears after the IPL. I am not blaming the IPL for the lack of application but merely pointing out that adapting to different formats can be a difficult task at times. Then, of course, the argument will be that one needs to adapt to stay ahead in the race. It is rather ironical that Jalaj Saxena, whose selection was widely criticised, has grabbed his opportunity with an all-round display. It goes to show that the perceived brand value/potential of a player can be a horrible mismatch to on-field performance.

It is ironical that the Caribbean spinners have outwitted the India A batsmen. Spinners from the Windies ruling the roost in Test cricket (even if it is unofficial)? One would expect fast bowlers from the Windies to dominate on their home turf even more as Johnson has done and the Indian batsmen to tackle the spinners with aplomb. It is good to see intriguing spinners emerge from the Caribbean islands, but it is hard to fathom why batsmen who are brought up on a diet of spin bowling are succumbing to the slower bowlers.

Prior to the commencement of the series, it was dubbed as a platform for the middle-order batsmen to come up trumps and create pleasant headaches for the selection committee. But unfortunately the headache is likely to be a painful one with none of the batsmen (except Pujara to a certain extent) doing anything exceptional. There have been too many instances of the middle-order batsmen not converting their starts into something substantial which is more of a temperamental flaw than a technical one.

Once the ‘Tests' are over, the shorter formats will give the players some more opportunities but the point is that Team India needs batsmen who can make runs when the bowlers are looking to get them out as against restricting them like they do in the shorter formats. The selection committee needs to back players who can perform in the duration games as they are the ones who can adapt to the other formats as well.

The fabulous four are examples of this as they all established themselves in the Tests before displaying their prowess in the ODIs. In the recent edition of the IPL, the likes of Dravid and Kallis showed that they can fit into the slam-bang format despite being the purists that they are. From what coach Rajput has indicated, it seems to boil down to the fact that modern day batsmen are looking at having a good time at the crease rather than spend a fair amount of time in it, a trait that can be discouraging.

However, with the A team scheduled to embark on more tours in the near future, one can hope that the batsmen will make the necessary adjustments in their approach as the current series would have taught them a few valuable lessons. A few heavy scorers in domestic cricket failed to make the cut for West Indies and it will be interesting to see if the selection committee decides to give them some opportunities in the future.